Attention Goalies: The Month That Saves is Here!
By Scott Lowe – MYHockeyRankings.com
Every hockey season has certain landmarks or time stamps that we look forward to each year as North American hockey teams navigate the long and winding journey through their schedules.
Labor Day long has been the unofficial start to the youth hockey season in the United States, but more recently the start date has been pushed ahead a few weeks into August.
Many Canadian youth teams and leagues start up in September, which also is known for its large early season tournaments, jamborees and showcases. September also is when the various North American junior leagues begin their seasons.
In areas where high-school hockey is popular, USA Hockey National Championship berths are determined as some state champions are crowned in November. The end of November and December brings holiday tournaments, holiday breaks and the start of league play for many teams.
League play ramps up in January, league playoffs usually are held in February and most of the state, provincial, district and regional champions – and the remaining U.S. and Canadian national-championship berths – are determined in March.
April is national-championship month, while most of the junior-league playoffs and national tournaments continue through April and into May.
Then we take a little break for the summer and do it all over again.
One month purposely was omitted from that list, however, but that month has turned into a special time of year that is celebrated by hockey goalies, their teammates and families all over the continent. October has become the month that saves as North American goalies at all levels come together to participate in a fundraiser that benefits the continuing fight against breast cancer.
Those of us who are not new to hockey and have been hanging around ice rinks most weekends for a few years know that it's almost October Saves time. With October 1 on the horizon, goalies everywhere are gearing up to do their part and assist in the fight against a terrible disease that has touched so many of our lives.
October Saves is the name of the fundraising program, and it has generated nearly $3 million since officially becoming a non-profit organization in 2017. And as this year’s start date looms, the organization hopes to exceed last year's high-water mark of $625,000.
“This year is the 10th anniversary since we first started working with goalies in the Washington, D.C. area to raise money, so we would love to exceed $700,000,” October Saves Founder Lara Hopewell said. “Also, in honor of our 10th year, we will have some fun pop-up prizes for registered goalies as the month goes on. Goalies need to be registered and fundraising to be eligible to win.”
Two years ago, October Saves added the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in New England as one of the program’s beneficiaries, which “really motivated our goalies in New England,” according to Hopewell.
“They are an amazing cancer-research center, so we were beyond psyched to donate to them,” she added.
For the 2023 fundraiser, October Saves has added a new beneficiary in Canada.
“Our brand-new beneficiary in Canada is the Canadian Cancer Society,” Hopewell said. “All funds in Canada will go directly to CCS, and no Canadian-generated funds will leave the country. This is awesome, because CCS is able to put the funds to work all over Canada.”
The Farber Institute’s well-known Jimmy Fund and the Canadian Cancer Society join other similar programs in benefitting from the efforts of North American Hockey goalies. October Saves also is aligned with organizations in the United States such as the Invoa Schar Cancer Institute in Virginia, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Stand Up to Cancer. In Canada, the organization previously has partnered with Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, another organization that has been able to funnel funds to reputable organizations all over the country.
Some changes to the program that were necessitated when many rinks were shut down and seasons were delayed during the COVID-19 outbreak have helped October Saves attract even more participants and allowed the program to soar beyond the $600,000 annual fundraising threshold. Those additions have become permanent components of the October Saves fundraising efforts.
In 2020, many teams were not able to practice or play games in October because of local restrictions, and amateur hockey was pretty much shut down all over Canada. Hopewell initially adopted an "it is what it is" approach and figured she would be happy with any amount of money the program could raise that year. But where there's a will, there's a way, and all it took was a little creativity to maintain the momentum October Saves had built.
Thanks to an "All Saves, One Goal" campaign, October Saves was able to raise more than $400,000 that year and then eclipse the $600,000 mark in 2021. "All Saves, One Goal" simply means that any save made by any goalie anywhere during the month of October counts toward the fundraising efforts. Whether goalies are playing street hockey with their friends, practicing, playing in organized games or in front of their TVs playing video games, any time they stop a puck they are helping fight breast cancer.
“We honestly had no idea what to expect, so we didn't set a number for 2020,” she said. “In our minds, any dollar amount would have been amazing, and our beneficiaries would have been thrilled to receive anything. We definitely attribute our success that year and the phenomenal recent growth we’ve experienced to the ‘All Saves, One Goal’ campaign since it removed all barriers to making saves for our participants and their families.”
Keeping that "All Saves, One Goal" approach in place also has allowed goalies in areas of the country where games don't start until November to participate. That means goaltenders in the United States hockey hotbed of Minnesota and New England Prep School goalies can be part of the fundraising efforts.
“'All Saves, One Goal' is here to stay," Hopewell said. “It was so successful that first year and it allows more players to participate, so why not? We love our NHL video-gamer army, which has showed up in force, too."
October Saves also has partnered with The Goalie Guild and Goalie Guild Gaming, which has helped keep the E-goalie donations flowing. Goalie Guild Gaming is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the growth of NHL E-sports by “offering education, training, and mentoring opportunities for goalies of all ages and levels.”
A longtime supporter of the October Saves program, The Goalie Guild has held an online streaming event on Twitch to benefit October Saves and coincide with the annual launch of EA Sports’ NHL video game. Gamers who live anywhere have been afforded the opportunity to count virtual saves toward their fundraising goals.
Initially founded in 2014 with all 28 of the goalies in the Ashburn (Va.) Xtreme youth hockey program participating, October saves expanded into Canada five years ago and has continued growing since then. That first year, Ashburn’s goalies raised $32,000 on their own.
The numbers improved substantially in year two, with NHL goaltending coach Mitch Korn donating a spot in one of his goalie camps as a prize, and eventually the Chesapeake Bay Hockey League, which includes pretty much all Tier 2 youth travel programs in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, began supporting the program. Then USA Hockey got on board.
The addition of new prizes for the top fundraisers annually, along with the ability for clubs to support their goalies’ fundraising efforts, also has helped grow the numbers. The addition of the Farber Institute's well-known Jimmy Fund as a beneficiary provided a big boost as well.
"We know that many of our fundraisers in New England are personally inspired to fundraise for the Jimmy Fund," Hopewell said.
Keeping the program fresh by adding creative twists and new, exciting prizes each year – while also making it simple and easy for goalies to participate – has been another key to October Saves' continued growth and success. The program provides a fully functional website that allows participants to promote their efforts and manages their donations.
Two years ago, October Saves made it even easier for goalies to raise money by allowing their clubs to fundraise with them. Clubs were given the ability to register their organizations and add their registered goalies, and October Saves tracked club fundraising efforts on its website. The top-fundraising organization was awarded a Sense Arena Virtual Goaltending Training System along with a one-year programming subscription.
That prize, valued at $3,000, is one of many ways goalies and clubs are incentivized to participate in the fundraiser. Clubs interested in participating can click on this link for the October Saves website and scroll through a video that walks them through the registration process on the home page.
“As we all know, it’s more exciting to fundraise together,” Hopewell said.
The creative approach continues in 2023.
“Our big new prize this year is for the top fundraising team,” Hopewell said. “Mitch Korn will pay a visit to the top fundraising team for an off-ice ‘Fireside Chat’ event. October Saves will host the event in that team’s community, and the team will be able to invite whoever they would like, including coaches, fellow club goalies and family members. Mitch is such an incredible wealth of knowledge and a super entertaining speaker, so this is a great opportunity for a hockey community.”
Korn has been one of the program’s biggest supporters for many years, and last year October Saves renamed the Mitch Korn Camp Scholarship it awards annually in honor of Charlie Capalbo, a young goalie who lost his fight with cancer.
“He fought cancer multiple times,” Hopewell recalled, “and was a dedicated goalie who worked Mitch’s camps. Mitch grew very close to the family, and we were excited to offer the scholarship.”
October Saves also began awarding a training scholarship to a participant whose family is dealing with a cancer diagnosis.
This year, the top-five fundraisers in each country once again will be awarded brand new goalie gear, including a mask, skates, catching glove, blocker, stick and leg pads. And as usual, there will be a variety of milestone fundraising prizes goalies can earn as their fundraising dollars increase. New milestone prizes for this year include an October Saves hoodie and bucket hat.
"We have continued to increase the overall number of prizes and add to the fundraising-milestone prizes, so there are more opportunities for everyone to be rewarded for their amazing efforts," Hopewell said.
The top American fundraiser in 2022 was Ike Cole, who is playing for the Loudon Knights 14U team this season. Ike raised $21,256. Canada’s top fundraiser was Jacen Craig, who played for the U14 Mississauga Rattlers last season and raised more than $6,000.
Ike’s mom has successfully fought both breast and colon cancer. She finished her treatment for colon cancer right before October Saves started in 2021, and Ike raised more than $15,000 in her honor that year.
He didn’t stop there, however, topping that amount by more than $6,200 last year. Unfortunately, Traci recently was diagnosed with cancer for a third time.
“She is the most tenacious woman I have ever met,” Hopewell said. “She actually asked if she could do more for October Saves this year. We said, ‘absolutely,’ and she is now our Mid-Atlantic Liaison, reaching out to clubs to help motivate them and give them tips and tricks on how to rally their rinks for October Saves. She is absolutely unstoppable!”
We all know that the North American hockey community is undefeated, and the number of touching stories the October Saves program brings to light every year – and the fervor with which hockey families rally behind such an important cause – make the program special and unique.
This year’s campaign brings yet another inspiring story to the forefront.
Matthew Hurley is a young goalie playing junior hockey for the New England Wolves in New Hampshire who has participated in October Saves for six years. This year his dad, who is a sheriff’s deputy, continues to work despite having been diagnosed with cancer and dealing with the incredible fatigue and other struggles brought on by the disease and its treatments.
“Cancer seems to always know where my family members are at all times,” Matthew posted on his fundraising page. “I've lost two great grandfathers to cancer, my grandfather lost his left ear to the disease and over the past nine months I've watched my dad struggle with fatigue brought upon by his own cancer fight and the related treatments. When does this cycle end? Will I be next? If I have kids, will they suffer too? We can find a cure; it just takes time and money. Please help me raise money for a cause near and dear to my heart.”
October Saves runs throughout the month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and there still is time to sign up and join the goalies all over North America who continue the fight against this terrible disease.
Anyone interested in participating can register and find out more by CLICKING HERE.